VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Onancock-based 576th Engineer Utilities Detachment, 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group constructed new training facilities and repaired current ones at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia, during their annual training June 8-22, 2019.
The 23 Soldiers of the 576th were joined by 14 Soldiers from the Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Company as they tackled several major projects at SMR while also completing their individual and unit Soldier training requirements.
“It’s very rewarding training,” said 1st Lt. Blair Kopfstein, commander of the 576th. “It’s probably the first time in my military career we’re building something that will be used beyond our time here. We’re using our skills to build things that people will get a lot of use out of.”
The mission of the 576th is to provide facilities engineering support in the areas of carpentry, masonry, electrical, plumbing and road maintenance and repair. The projects at SMR included a new grenade qualification course and a new helicopter landing zone.
“The grenade range practice qualification course is actually a two-part project because we’re building the actual obstacles and we’re flattening the ground and preparing the area for the course,” Kopfstein explained. “In addition, we’re doing a landing zone for units that need another option for where to land and do ‘touch and goes.’”
They also constructed a new platform to conduct physical training.
“This platform could provide the space to do deadlifts outside when conducting the Army Combat Fitness Test,” he explained.
In addition to the new construction the Soldiers of the 576th also repaired several facilities already on SMR.
“We’re fixing up the obstacle course, which needed renovating, and we’re coordinating with ChalleNGe to renovate their volleyball court for the cadets,” Kopfstein said. The volleyball court renovation will take place in the coming months after the materials arrive.
The construction projects were the culmination of several months were of planning and training the unit conducted. The project managers were assigned in March and each drill since then the Soldiers prepared for the construction projects.
“This is the run phase of the crawl/walk/run,” he explained. “Part of our mission essential task list isn’t just doing the work but the whole process of project management. This is the first time we’ve done this hands-on and not just classroom work.”
And the project managers weren’t just officers and senior NCOs. All the projects were led by E-3s and E-5s.
“This was my first time leading a project of any kind,” admitted Pfc. Jonathan Kuntze. “It’s very valuable because we do all this training on the weekends and then we combine and put it all in motion during annual training.”
“The project managers did a great job of taking responsibility for their projects and leading the way,” Kopstein said. “They created the briefs and developed a plan and executed that plan. As a commander it’s a great responsibility to oversee all these projects and trust your subordinates to get the missions accomplished.”